Col 3:01-10 | Graveyard Religion

Text: Colossians 3:1-10

Would you open your Bibles to the book of Colossians, chapter 3. I am going to read the first ten verses. It’s a little book hiding right behind Philippians—a little book with a big message.

If then you are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Practice setting your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory. Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth such as fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry. For which things sake the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience, and in the which you also sometime walked in them, when you lived in them. But now you also, put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication, out of your mouth. Stop lying one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with its deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.

I want you to take a little trip with me tonight. We won’t be gone long. I want us to go to a little town by the name of Bethany. When we arrive in this small town, the first thing that we notice is that there is something unusual going on. No body riding a bicycle up and down, blowing a trumpet, but there is a lot of commotion. Something unusual is happening in this sleepy little town. So we ask somebody, what is everybody all astir about? What’s going on? Oh, you must be a visitor. You haven’t heard. You know Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha? Well, he died a few days ago, and that prophet Jesus from Nazareth has just come. Rumor has it that he is going out there and raise Lazarus from the dead. We are all going out there to watch. Well, I know this much. I want to see that too.

So we fall in behind the crowd, and after awhile we find ourselves standing in front of a tomb with that crowd. The stone is rolled away. Jesus has prayed a very strange prayer. He said, Father, I’m asking you to do this, but I don’t really need to ask because you and I already have this settled. I am just saying this out loud so that everybody will know we are together on this. After he said that, he said, Lazarus, come forth! Everybody had their eyes fixed on the dark mouth of that tomb. You could hear, if you listened carefully, some movement. Suddenly, Lazarus appears. I don’t how he appeared. He was wrapped in grave clothes, so I’ve always wondered how he got of the tomb. He either had to hop out, or he floated out. He couldn’t walk in those grave clothes. Hopping out seems a little irreverent, so I feel like he kind of floated out there. Everybody was amazed. Jesus said, loose him and let him go. And they did; they unwrapped him. And there was Lazarus, dead four days, and yet restored to life. Of course, Mary and Martha are beside themselves, falling over Lazarus, falling over Jesus, loving them, thanking them. Everybody is so excited. Everybody wants to get close to Lazarus. Somebody picks up a few scraps of the grave clothes to take back as a souvenir. They can’t believe this. Jesus has raised this man from the grave.

After awhile, as people do, they tired of that miracle. They begin to drift back to their homes. Mary and Martha asked Jesus to come back with them, and they would fix him supper. Mary, Martha, and Jesus start walking down the road toward their house in Bethany. They haven’t gone very far when suddenly Martha asks where Lazarus is. Mary said she didn’t know, that he was there just a few minutes ago. They looked back toward the tomb and saw no sign of him. Martha said, he must be back there talking with somebody, giving his testimony. Mary, you go back and tell Lazarus to come on home because I’m fixing supper for the Lord.

Well, I don’t think Mary was all that keen on going back to that tomb, but she usually did what her sister said. She got back to that tomb, and there was no one there. She looked everywhere. Lazarus was not anywhere to be found. All of a sudden she heard some movement down in the sepulcher and cupped her hand and said, Lazarus, are you down there? From within came the dim little answer, I’m here, Mary. She couldn’t imagine what in the world Lazarus was doing in that tomb. So she very cautiously stepped down the steps into that sepulcher, stood there a moment so her eyes could adjust to the dark, and when they did, she couldn’t believe what she saw. There was Lazarus sitting over on the slab of stone rewrapping those grave clothes back around his body. Mary couldn’t believe what was going on. Mary said, Lazarus, what in the world are you doing? Martha sent me, and you know how sister is. She is going to be mad at both of us if we don’t get home right now. She is fixing supper. What in the world are you doing? And he’s just sitting there wrapping those grave clothes around his body. Lazarus said, well, I guess it does seem a little strange to you. I’ll try to explain. You know that I spent four days here. The first day I got here I thought I couldn’t take it, but you get accustomed to things. After being here four days you kind of settle in and begin to feel a little bit at home. I know these grave clothes aren’t the latest style, and, as a matter of fact, they don’t smell too keen. But you know I got so used to wearing the grave clothes, they kind of fit me. It’s like an old easy chair. I thought I would just stay down here for awhile and wear these old grave clothes. Maybe Martha could bring me some meals. I’ll be out after awhile. It’s hard to leave. I just ought to stay here for awhile.

Mary can’t believe what she is hearing. She is saying, Lazarus, Lazarus, don’t you understand? Jesus has raised you back to life. You are no longer dead; you no longer belong in this cemetery; you no longer belong in this tomb and those grave clothes. Lazarus, everything you are doing is inconsistent with the new life that Jesus has given you.

Now, if you know your Bible very well, you’ll know there was a point in that story at which I departed from the facts, not the truth. Ridiculous! I’ll bet Lazarus was so glad to get out of there. I’ll be he was so anxious to get out of those grave clothes, you couldn’t see for the dust he was kicking up trying to get out of that place. He was gone. That’s what you would do. That’s natural. That’s what anybody would do. Anybody want to linger around in the grave and wear the shroud a little bit longer? There’s something wrong with that person. You have to say that is inconsistent with the new life Jesus has given you.

And yet that is exactly what Paul is saying to these Colossians in the third chapter. He says, if you then be risen with Christ, why do you go on living like you do. You need to put off all these things. There are very colorful words here. He says in verse 8 that we are to put off some things. In verse 9 we are to put off the old man. In verse 10 we are to put on the new man. It is the figure of discarding old, dirty clothes and putting on new clothes. What Paul is saying to these Colossians is if you have truly been saved, if you have truly been raised with Christ, then your mind, heart, and affections ought to be on things that are consistent with that new life. These things of the old life—those old grave clothes of fornication and covetousness, and those old grave clothes of anger and wrath, you no longer wear those. You put those off, and put on the new clothes of Christ-likeness. It is just as consistent for some of us to live as we are living and practice the things that we are practicing as it would be for Lazarus to continue living in the tomb from which he had been raised.

This is what Paul is talking about. I want to talk to you for a little bit about what I call graveyard religion. Now Paul is addressing a problem. At Colossae there are some teachers. There is a difference of opinion among scholars as to who these false teachers and this false system were, but it is pretty well agreed upon that there is something of the Gnostic about it, and that there were those who were trying to create an elitist type of Christianity that came because you were introduced to certain secret knowledge. You had seen certain visions, and you had gone beyond these other mere ordinary Christians. Having received Christ, they were still at the entrance way, but these had gone on to something greater. They were trying to complete their faith in something beyond the Lord Jesus Christ. So what had happened was there were those who had come in and said that it’s not enough just to worship Jesus. There are a lot of beings, angels, spirits, and hierarchies of beings. Some of those things have to be taken into account. Also, you must deny the body. There are certain rules and regulations you must follow if you are going to live for Christ. You can’t just go out here and live anyway you want to. What was happening was that these Colossian Christians were being judged and condemned on the basis of things that had absolutely no relevance with the Christian faith.

I want to go back to the second chapter for just a moment. I want to read beginning with verse 16 in the Williams translation:
Stop letting anyone pass judgment on you in matte5rs of eating and drinking, or in the matter of annual or monthly feasts or Sabbaths. (Now, folks as I read through this, I want us to listen very carefully. This was written about 2000 years ago, but it could have been written today because it is happening in our churches today. We are being judged on the basis of false standards.) These were but the shadow of what was coming; the reality belongs to Christ. Stop letting anyone, in gratuitous humility and worship of angels, defraud you as an umpire (act like an umpire and call you out), for such a one is taking his stand on the mere visions he has seen, and is groundlessly conceited over his sensuous mind. Such a person is not continuing in connection with the Head, from which the whole body, when supplied and united through its joints and sinews, grows with a growth that God produces. If one through fellowship with Christ you died and were separated from the world’s crude notions, why do you live as though you belonged to the world? Why submit to rules such as, You must not handle,” “You must not taste,” “You must not touch,” which refer to things that perish in the using, in accordance with human rules and teachings? (Here is the clicker.) Such practices (keeping rules and regulations, observing this day, this feast, not touching this, not touching that, not handling this) have the outward expression of wisdom (it looks like they are doing a good thing), with their self-imposed devotion, s their self-humiliation, their torturings of the body, but they are of no value; they really satisfy the lower nature.

Paul said that if we have died with Christ to the world, then we must not allow the traditions of man to bind us, and be judged on the basis of those things such as touch not, taste not, handle not. You can make all the rules and regulations you want to make.

I have to confess that when I started in the ministry, I grew up in the kind of church that preached fire and brimstone. Every Saturday night was youth night. As a young evangelist I would preach on the sins of the youth—as if they were different than the others! Of course, Samson and Delilah were my text.

At the end of that service, I would give this kind of invitation. All you young people who are willing to give up the sins of youth (and, of course, I would name them so there would be no mistake: drinking, smoking, going to picture shows, playing cards, and parking at the Fort Smith Reservoir)come and dedicate your life to purity. We had great results. Every kid in that building got down there. What are you going to do? Stand there and let everybody know you aren’t going down there and be pure, or stand back there and be filthy?

We would go away and say, wasn’t that a great service? We had 75 kids come tonight to the altar and yield their lives to a life of purity. Isn’t that wonderful? Do you know how long it lasted? Til the next dance they got invited to, or until the next time the boy’s car pulled up at the Fort Smith Reservoir.

You can make all the rules and regulations you want to make. But I have news for you; they are of no value whatsoever in overcoming the flesh. They have no power whatsoever. As a matter of fact, the truth is that rules and regulations, rather than overcoming the flesh and lower nature, feed it because you get this superior attitude. We judge people on the basis of what they don’t do that we do, or what they do that we do not do. So we pump ourselves up and say, we are the finest Christians around. We know more than anybody else because we are adhering to rules and regulations.

The superstitions, the days and the moons, and all that goes on with the touch not, taste not, handle not, leave the Christian in bondage. I think that one of the great needs of Christians today is to finally throw off the yoke of legalism, conforming to somebody’s else’s standard and living in fear. It’s not a life of freedom; that’s a life of bondage, a life of fear that I may cross the line or say something ever so slight that will cause God to hit me on the head.

I never will forget a few years ago in Wichita, Kansas, I was preaching a Bible conference. A Baptist pastor came to me after the service one night and said, I hear you have a series of tapes on Wake Up to the Supernatural about the devil, demons, and the occult. I said, yes sir, I do. He said he would like to have a set of the tapes and asked how much they were. I told him they were $13 (you can tell how long ago that was; they are $30 now). He asked if he could write me a check fo9r $12 and owe me a dollar. I asked why. He said, he didn’t like to write checks for $13. I should have given him the tapes. If anybody needed them, he did. Instead I told him to write that check for $14, and let me owe him the dollar. And he did!

Folks, is that liberty? Are we going around today appointing ourselves heads of the church, making dispensations and saying that certain things have to be done and that you have to break curses and be afraid you don’t say the wrong thing? That’s not liberty; that’s bondage.

I have a friend whose wife went to one of these covered dish luncheons, and she walked into the kitchen carrying her culinary contribution. The woman in charge said, ah, what did you bring? My friend said I brought deviled eggs. The woman threw back her arms and said, I bind that in the name of Jesus Christ. She said, you can bind it all you want to, but they are still deviled eggs.

Paul said all these things look good. They are impressive—really look good. If you see somebody humiliating themselves, depriving themselves, that looks good. But I want to tell you the truth. It doesn’t help one bit. All it does is contribute to the pride of self.

Well, if you aren’t going to have rules and regulations, how are we to live? How are we to overcome these things? That’s what he tells us in verse 1 of chapter 3. In the last verses of chapter 2 he is saying that liberty in life, Christ-likeness, the Christian life does not come by rules and regulations, and by following the traditions of men. But if you then are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Practice keeping your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

Thomas Chalmers preached a sermon years ago called The Expulsive Tower of a New Affection. Alexander McLaren tells about it in one of his expositions. Thomas Chalmers, who was normally a very gentle and humane person, was driving his horse and buggy. There was a friend of his riding along with him. Everything was going along just fine when all of a sudden Thomas Chalmers started beating the horse unmercifully with the whip. There was no reason to do it. His friend couldn’t believe he was doing this. The horse was doing great, but he just kept beating the horse. After a moment, he stopped. His friend said, I’ve never seen anything so cruel. Why were you doing that? Chalmers said, it was because I saw something the horse did not see. I saw a snake on the side of the road. If the horse had seen that snake, he would have bolted and run. When I began to whip him, all his attention was on the whip, and he did not see the snake.

It’s a simple principle, isn’t it? When I was in the seventh grade, I had to go to the dentist to have two teeth pulled. I was scared to death. I knew he would give me a shot so it wouldn’t hurt, but the shot was pretty terrifying, too. My mother said, son, I’ll tell you what you do. When the dentist starts to put that needle in, take your thumbnail and press it against your middle finger and bury it in the flesh. Really pinch yourself hard. You will be so concerned about the pain in your finger, you’ll forget about the shot in your jaw. I am a little embarrassed to admit that to this day, when I go to the dentist and they give me a shot, you find me doing this..

What is it? It’s the expulsive power of a new affection. I arrived in a town to preach a meeting and the pastor met me at the airport. I said, how are things going? He said, they are going fine now, but we had a close call. I said, what happened. He said, our daughter sometime ago got involved with man we did not really approve of. We felt like he wasn’t right for her. I said what did you do? He said, well, we did what parents do. We told her how we felt and that just seemed to make her that much more determined to be with him. I said what did you do? He said, we introduced her to a better boy, and they are getting married next week.

The expulsive power of a new affection. The love of the world and the love of the Father cannot remain in the same place. You don’t overcome the love of the world by telling people how ugly the world is. It’s not all that ugly, folks. You overcome the love of the world by telling them how beautiful the Father is. It is our love for God that shoves out and pushes out the love of the world.

Paul says instead of submitting yourselves to rules and regulations that are not going to do a thing for you except make you proud and selfish, set your mind on things above. Practice putting your mind, your heart, your affection on Jesus and his glory. When you do that, then what you need to do is to cast off those old clothes and put on some new ones. That’s what we are going to look at in the next few minutes.

You’ll notice in verse 5 he says, put to death your members which are upon the earth. In verse 8 he says, put off all these. In verse 9, put off the old man. In verse 10, put on the new man. . . . I think the sequence here is very important. You have to put off before you put on. You cannot put on the new man, the new clothes of Christ-likeness, until you have taken off the old clothes that are not like Christ. I think the reason many of us feel uncomfortable trying to act like Christ is because we have him on over the old man.

I remember some years ago about midnight I was lounging in some new pajamas that my mother-in-law had given me for Christmas. Kaye informed me that she needed a few things at the store, and asked me to run up to the 7-11 a few blocks away and pick up two or three things. I didn’t see any need to get out of my pajamas and get dressed so I just took the silk pajama legs and pulled them high above the knee and put on my slacks and shirt. Now you have to understand in the Dallas/Fort Worth area a lot of these clerks in convenience stores are a little nervous about late night customers, as you can well imagine. So I went in and was going up and down the aisles trying to find what I needed. I noticed this woman behind the counter was watching me everywhere I would go. She kept looking down at my feet. I looked down and those silk pajamas had come undone, and they were coming out my pants legs. I looked like a suspicious character. I really felt uncomfortable in those clothes.

The trouble is that sometimes you and I try to put on acting like Jesus without ever having put off the old clothes. No matter how hard we try do dress it up, sooner or later, brother, that old nature is going to peek out. No, first of all, you put off—then you put on.

Now there are two lists of things of things that we are to put off. I like to think of these as the grave clothes. Go to the closet and see what all these old grave clothes are. There is one list in verse 5. We will call these the sins of desire. There is another list in verses 8 and 9. We will designate these as sins of disposition.

First of all, look at verse 5. Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth. Now, simply, what that means is this: you have died with Christ. As far as Christ is concerned, as far as you are concerned, you are dead to this world. Now live like it. Live like you are dead to the world. Take everything in your life that smacks of the old life and you do away with it. You write death over it. You put it to death. The idea is that you do it right now, once and for all, no tapering off. It is an ugly list: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry. You can sum those up in two words: impurity and greed.

A thought occurred to me some time ago. Has it ever struck you a little strange that when Paul writes to the Galatians, writes to the Ephesians, and writes to the Colossians, a lot of times he is telling them to stop committing immorality? Think about that for a moment. He is writing to a church of converts. These are Christians. He is saying, you need to stop your acts of fornication and immorality. How do you explain that? Well, these were Gentile pagans. They came out of a pagan society. If you have ever studied much history, you know the characteristic mark of a pagan society is the exaltation of immorality. To them, immorality was as natural as breathing. There was no such thing as chastity among those people. It was normal to them. And here are people born into that kind of culture, and when they got saved, they didn’t immediately lose all thought thoughts and principles. There had to be an education process so here is what Paul is saying. Now, those were things you did when you were out there in the world, but they won’t do now. You need to put them to death—have nothing at all to do with them.

I said a moment ago that the characteristic mark of a pagan society is exaltation of immorality. If you take that at its face value, you will almost have to say that you and I are living today in a pagan society because of the exaltation and normalization of immorality.

Let’s move on now to verses 8 and 9, to the second list. These we will call sins of disposition. But now you also put off these—anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Stop lying one to another.

Let’s look at anger. What does this word mean? What kind of anger. Several words are translated anger. This word I believe can best be translated or understood as “anger suppressed”. The next word wrath is “anger expressed”. The first word indicates the kind of anger that doesn’t show. You are burning up inside because of what happened, but you don’t show it. You smile and act nice, but inside there is a volcano erupting. The truth of the matter is that just because we don’t show our anger doesn’t mean that we have not sinned against God in being angry. It is that kind of anger that never expresses itself, but cherishes it in the heart. It begins to poison the system and go deeper and deeper.

Let me make this observation. With the first list, the sins of immorality, Paul started with the final act of fornication and led back to the desire: evil concupiscence and inordinate affection. In this list he reverses the process. He starts with the desire, the inclination, and carries it out to its logical consequence.

So first of all, there is anger suppressed, but you cannot forever suppress that anger. Sooner or later, it is going to get out of control. That’s wrath—anger out of control. It is the outburst of temper.

I learned something when I was a very young boy. I learned that losing your temper costs you your testimony. I was working for my uncle and dad in their service station. I was a young preacher boy. The head mechanic there was as lost as he could be. I had witnessed to him, and witnessed to him, but he didn’t care. One of those muggy, humid days in July or August in Fort Smith, Arkansas, I had changed a tire on a car, fixed the flat, and had the wheel back on, and had put the bolts on, and was trying to get the hub cap on there. I was having a terrible time getting the hub cap on because you would beat it in down here and it would pop out up here. I was sweating, and the sweat was falling in my eyes and burning. I was squatting down and getting tired. I lost it. I took that hub cap and flung it as far as I could across the wash bay and into the grease rack—and felt pretty good. Then I looked around, and there was my lost buddy—watching me. He only said one word to me, and said it with a smirk: preacher! I had never known such condemnation.

But notice that it moves on. From wrath there comes malice. Now malice is a little different than the others. Malice indicates a spiteful, vicious attitude. It is acting toward another person in such a way as to be vicious and wanting the worst thing to happen to them. And you don’t mind hearing about bad things happening to them. It bothers you a little to hear they are doing well. First of all, you are angry at a person. Then you express that anger. Then there is born in your heart a spiteful attitude toward them. The next one comes out blasphemy, or slander. That is simply giving somebody the idea that so-and-so may not be all that he claims to be.

I used to always be bothered by the words of Jesus over in Matthew, chapter 5, where he says if anyone calls another a fool, he is in danger of hell fire. Were you scared of that when you were a kid? I was scared to death of that. I would call them anything, but I wouldn’t call them a fool. Did that scare you? I knew I was going to slip one day and say fool when I didn’t mean it, and I was going to go to hell.

A friend, John Paul Hundley, and I were having a fight in the kitchen. Mom had a big iron pot of cabbage cooking on the stove. He was bigger than me, and always won. In the process, we knocked that big pot of cabbage all over the floor. I wanted to say the meanest thing I could think of. I said, you fool! It was a long time before I wasn’t afraid to go to sleep at night. I thought, boy, I have said something and God is going to send me to hell.

No, that’s not what he is talking about. When Jesus warns us against calling somebody a food, I think he is actually warning us against casting doubt or suspicion on a person’s moral character. It’s the idea of a moral fool—a man who is a fool in his morals. Jesus said that if you cast a person into that category (by the raising of an eyebrow, or the winking of an eye, or a shrug of the shoulders) you give the indication that somebody may not be what they seem to be, and you don’t know for sure. You don’t care too much about this person anyway. You are a little angry at him. You have a vicious attitude toward him so it comes very easily just to let people form the wrong impression.

Then comes filthy communication. We’ll not go into that. And then he says to stop lying one to another.

Let me finish by summing this up. Verses 12 through 14:
Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion and kindness and humbleness of mind and meekness and longsuffering, forbearing one another and forgiving one another, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on love which is the belt of perfection.

Paul says, once you have disrobed the old clothes, you need to dress up. Here is what the well dressed Christian wears. He wears a heart filled with compassion. He wears humility of mind. He wears gentleness and meekness. Perhaps, the most attractive thing about him (maybe it’s the tie he is wearing), is that he is forbearing and he is forgiving.

What does it mean to forbear with somebody? It is closely akin to longsuffering and patience. Basically, it means “to hang in there” with a friend, stay by their side, support them, prop them up, stand by them. You don’t like what they are doing, and it is maddening the way they seem to be messing up their life. They are so slow in coming along. But you are going to be forbearing. You are going to stick with them, stay with them. You are not going to desert them even though they fail. So you stay with them, stick with them. What are you doing in the meantime? Well, the word is gracing them. You are forgiving them, covering them with grace, while all these things they are doing are so stubborn and irritating to you. Yet, at the same time, you just continue to cover that with grace. You grace them. Paul says this is what the well-dressed Christian wears.

I wonder tonight if any of us have any old grave clothes hanging in our closet at home. You hate to throw them all away. You never can tell; one of them might come back in style some day. I’ve had a minor victory this week. I’ve worn an old tie, 25 years old, so out of style, so ugly looking that it is in style now. Listen, you hang on to those old clothes long enough and you will find an occasion to put them on once in a while.

© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005

Col 2:19-23 | The Great Reconciliation

Text:   Colossians 2:19-23

INTRODUCTION:   These yeses read like a 20th century newspaper. They tell us two things:  there is something wrong with the world, and there is something wrong with man. That there is something wrong with this whole universe is implied in the fact that it will be reconciled. That there is something wrong with man is seen by the words, “alienated and enemies.” Man is an enemy of God. This means that he is deliberately and willfully opposed to God’s will, in revolt against His authority. We are alienated from God… severed by sin from Him, estranged.

This is the attitude of man.. .hostility towards God. No thoughts are more unwelcome than ones about God. “They did not like to retain God in their minds.” This attitude expresses itself in their actions.. .“wicked works.”

The great paradox is that although God looks upon man as His enemy, yet He reconciles him to Himself. All God’s work for us was done when we were His enemies. His love for us came from His own heart.

The ultimate problems in this world are not material or political, but spiritual. It is the result of a wrong relationship with God. Thus, it is not the philosophers and scientists who can lead this world to redemption and restore peace, but Christ only. He is Creator and Sustainer, He is also the Great Reconciler. He has been endowed for this great task. All fullness dwells permanently in Him. Whatever is needed to save a fallen world and restore harmony to the universe is treasured up in Him.

He Reveals

He Rules

He Redeems

He Reconciles


“Having made peace.”   The need implies a prior alienation of man from God.

1.  The word means, “to make something other than it was; a radical change in relationships It is a new stage in personal relationships in which previous hostility of mind has been put away by some decisive act. It is the changed relations between God and man which are the result of the death and resurrection of Christ.

2.  It is making Peace…the ending of War.


“Through the blood of His cross.” “In the body of his flesh through death.”

1.  It is provided by Grace. The wounded party sought the reconciliation. “Where art thou?” Adam should have gone to God and so should we have.

2.  It springs from God’s limitless love. Romans 8:32 “Delivered Him up for us all.” The cross is the proof that there is no length to which the love of God will refuse to go in order to win man. If the cross will not awaken love and wonder in a man’s heart, nothing will.

3.  It was a violent and painful act. “Blood” represents a violent death, and the “body of His flesh through death” speaks of a painful, physical suffering.

4.  The cross removes the cause of the alienation…sin. He who died on it possessed God’s nature, the offended party, and man’s nature, the offending party; and thus being qualified to mediate between them, His blood was poured out as a peace offering. An amnesty was proclaimed by His death. All the hostility and sin that severed man from God was placed on Jesus and He took it away through His blood.

Eph. 2:15 “Having abolished in His flesh the enmity.”

The sin principle, the lower nature, has its seat in the flesh, the tendency to sin. All thoughts and motives and desires which belong to the mere earthly existence are included in the flesh. In order to do battle with sin on its own ground Christ assumed a body of flesh (2 Cor. 5:21). By the destruction of His own flesh He destroyed the principle of flesh which involves the whole race in sin.


“To present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.”

There is a continuous work reaching a definite consummation.

1.  The purpose as to our character. “Holy and without blemish.” This is a sacrificial metaphor. Illustration of the High Priest examining the sacrifice. We are dedicated to God, “a living sacrifice.” We are to be an acceptable offering, free from blemish.. .that we might be able to stand the piercing gaze of Him whose scrutiny no defect can escape.

The love of God lays upon us the obligation to live life worthy of that love.

2.  The Purpose as to our Standing.. .“unreproveable”. Free from every charge against us. The accused person becomes unaccused He was awarded not condemnation but freedom.


Vs. 23..”IF..” There is an “if” clause in this contract. This is subject to a condition. All of this is ours provided we remain firmly founded and established in the faith. If the Bible teaches the perseverance of the saints, it also teaches that the saints are those who persevere. Continuance is the test of reality. Reconciliation demands loyalty.

“Grounded”.. .placed on a foundation

“Settled”.. .staying on the foundation

©Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2004

Col 1:15-20 | Fullness in Christ

Pre-eminence of Christ
Text: Colossians 1:15-20

Well, it’s been quite a week so far. I was reflecting that this week we have had people show us that we don’t need to be afraid of living, don’t need to be afraid of dying, and don’t need to be afraid of growing old. As everyday progresses, it progresses in the Lord.

As Diogenes became an old man, one of his students said, now that you are old, why don’t you slow down and take it easy? He said if I were a runner in the stadium, would I slacken my speed when I caught sight of the goal. No, that’s when you pour it on. Abraham’s greatest test with Isaac came at the age of 120 years. Jacob’s greatest encounter with God came 20 years after his first glorious encounter with God. The fact of the matter is that there is no end to it. It is always ever new, ever fresh, ever eternal.

15Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

I am haunted by something I read in the newspaper awhile back. It was about a young secretary who on her lunch hour climbed out on the ledge of a tall building in which she worked. She said she was going to jump. All her colleagues gathered around trying to talk her in. The police and firemen came. The psychologist came. She would not talk to anybody, and would not allow anybody to talk to her until they brought a minister and asked if she would let the minister talk to her. She said yes. He sat in the window talking to this young secretary out on the ledge. He talked to her for two hours, and then she jumped. I’m glad I was not that minister. I wonder how he felt. I wonder what he said to her. What would I say to her? If somebody is standing on the ledge and says I see no reason to live; if you can give me a reason to live, I won’t jump, what would you say to a person in that situation?

There are some things worse than death, and living is one of them. About 30,000 people every year in our country make that point. I have been thrown into situations where I find myself again and again counseling with would-be suicides or the parents of children who have committed suicide. This is the second leading cause of death among teenagers today in our country. I’ve read what the psychologist, psychiatrist, and sociologist say about it. They usually come up with something like this which is pretty much the truth I think: that we are suffering from malaise of meaninglessness, that in our day people have no longer been able to define their lives because the old solid structures, the passports, the watch signs, the signposts, the things that by normal means we usually identify ourselves and define what it means to be alive have been wiped away. So there seems to be no purpose to life at all. It all is so meaningless. I was struck by what Stuart Briscoe said the other night. This young man who gave his definition of his life was “an accident suspended in space between accidents.”
In 1940 the philosopher of the absurd and despair, Camu, wrote these words in his opening of the Myth of Sisyphus, “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.”

Yet, there is a part of me that says he is right because if life isn’t worth living, what difference does it make if 2 x 2 = 4? If life is not worth living and has no meaning to it, then what use is there in getting up and going to work? What use is there in being married and having children? If life is not worth living, if there is no meaning to it, no real defined purpose to it, then nothing else really matters. Everything else is strictly meaningless. I believe it is to that question Paul addresses himself in this letter to the Colossians.

There is one phrase that I want us to zero in on this morning. I think the whole emphasis of this passage falls on a phrase in the middle of verse 18. We’ll read verse 18: And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; (and then comes this purpose clause) in order that in all things he (that is, Christ) might have the preeminence. What Paul is saying is that everything that God has ever done, and everything that God will ever do, and everything that God is doing today in my life, as well as in the world, all comes down to this one purpose: so that in all things Jesus Christ might have first place, that he might be preeminent, that he might be supreme. That is the ultimate purpose.

I cannot define for you the immediate purpose of what may be happening in your life. If you come to me and say why has God allowed this to happen, why does God not stop this, why does God not move in here and change things, I cannot give you the immediate reason for the things that are happening, but I can give you the ultimate purpose behind it all: so that in all things in my life, as in your life, Jesus Christ might stand first, preeminent and supreme.

It is similar to the same phrase that Paul makes in Philippians, chapter 2, when describing the descent of the Lord Jesus Christ, taking upon himself the form of a man and a servant. He says that one of these days every knee is going to bow, every tongue is going to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
I love to hear Vance Havner. He used to say I never ask a man, will you confess Jesus as Lord. I always ask him when will you do it? The question is not will you do it because everybody has it to do. You can do it here and now in salvation or you can do it there in condemnation. But everybody has it to do. Every knee will bow; every tongue will confess in heaven on earth and in hell. The question is not will you someday acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord. The question is when will you do it, now or then. You’ve got it to do. You can go easy or you can go hard, but you’ve got it to do.

The ultimate meaning behind which every event in my life is structured—the good times, the bad times–all of it somehow dovetailing into that unique and eternal purpose of God: that Jesus Christ might stand first.
First of all, I want to talk to you about the reach or the realm or the scope of his preeminence. In what areas is Jesus Christ preeminent? Are there some boundaries that you can cross over, and beyond that Jesus Christ has no rightful place? Is there some place you can stick up a “no trespassing” sign in your life, and that’s as far as Jesus Christ can go? What is the reach of his preeminence? Paul makes it very plain; he says that in all things, he might have the preeminence. In other words, there is no boundary line. There is no point at which you can go beyond the jurisdiction of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is to be preeminent in everything—in all things.

One translation reads like this: that from every point of view Jesus Christ might have first place. I like that. For instance, let’s take this building. While we have doors instead of windows, we’ll pretend that those doors are windows. There’s a window here; there’s a window there; there’s a window there; and there’s another window there. Then there are that many other windows upstairs. If you go outside and look in this window, you will look into this auditorium. If you go to the window back there and look into that window, you will see the same auditorium but you will see it from a different point of view. If you go to this window back here and look into it, you will see the same auditorium but it will be from a different point of view. The same thing is true of all these windows. You are looking into the same room but you are looking from a different point of view.

I think Paul is saying that God is not going to be satisfied with the progress in my life until, from every point of view, every window you look through into my life, you still see the same thing—Jesus Christ preeminent. In other words, I know that when I look into your life through the window of your religion, I am going to see Jesus Christ preeminent. But what if I look into your life through the window of your home? Will I see the same thing? Christ in first place? What if I look into your life through the window of your business? Will I still see from the viewpoint of your business that Jesus Christ is first? If I look into your life through the window of your leisure time, will I still see the same thing? Jesus Christ preeminent in your life? No matter at what point I view your life, from this angle or from that angle, I still see the same thing—that blessed consistency that Jesus Christ is first place from every point of view.

Paul mentions some of these points of view in which Christ is preeminent, and we’ll go through those briefly. First of all, Paul tells us that Christ is preeminent when it comes to the matter of knowing God. He is preeminent in revelation. Notice the words in verse 15. He describes Jesus as the image of the invisible God, the essence and exact expression of God. When the Bible talks about God being invisible, it means more than just the fact that you can’t see him. It carries the idea that God is not only invisible but he is inaccessible. He is unapproachable, unknowable. When the Bible speaks of God being invisible, it means you can’t know God—period! You cannot approach him, no access to him, no knowing of him, no seeing of him; he is totally inaccessible to you. Jesus has come into the world and made the invisible God visible. He has made the unapproachable God approachable. He has made the inaccessible God accessible.

This simply means that the Lord Jesus Christ has a monopoly on revelation. I think one of the most strategic verses in the Bible is Matthew, chapter 11, verse 27, where Jesus says, “No man knows the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” That is a very dogmatic statement. Outside of Jesus Christ, everything else is just a guess about God. The fact of the matter is that truly to worship God without knowing Jesus Christ comes close to what we would call idolatry. You may say I believe in God, the God who created the heavens and the earth but I don’t believe in Jesus. Then I have to say to you that you are worshipping a God you do not know. That is idolatry. He is preeminent in revelation.

He goes on to tell us that not only is he preeminent in revelation but he is also preeminent in creation. In verse 16 Paul writes these words:
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

Notice that all things were made by him and through him. God said let there be light and there was light. John said everything was made by him and there is not anything that was made that was not made by him, both visible and invisible. Paul said you look out and everything you see, he made it. You look out, and everything you don’t see, he made it. He is the power behind creation.

But notice that he is also the preserver of it. In verse 17 I love this phrase: And he is before all things, and by him all things hold together. He is the glue that holds this whole business together. Every law of the universe is nothing more than just an expression of the mind of Jesus. He holds it all together. If you were to remove Jesus from it, everything would fade into nonexistence. You ask why that is so important. I believe for this reason: where Jesus Christ is not acknowledged as Lord, and he is not preeminent, things have a tendency to come apart. The reason our world is coming apart is because Christ is not acknowledged and worshipped as Lord, as preeminent. The reason your home falls apart is because Christ in some area is not Lord, is not preeminent. The reason my life begins to fall apart is because somehow I have not made Jesus Christ the Lord of everything. I figure if the Lord Jesus Christ can hold this universe together, he can hold my puny life together.

Here is the one thing I want to point out. The last phrase in verse 16: all things were created by him and for him. That’s a little preposition that carries the idea of motion towards an object. I think you could honestly translate it like this: all things were created through him, and all things are moving in his direction. The goal of all history is Jesus Christ. I don’t know if this is a good way to put it, but it is sort of like a boomerang. All creation came from him, and all creation is returning to him. That’s what gives life its meaning. That’s what gives the world its purpose. Everything that God has created, every bit of it, is moving towards him. One of these days it is going to be revealed in his presence. Everything comes from him, and everything is moving towards him. He is preeminent in creation.

He is also preeminent in re-creation because he is the head of the church. We’ll leave it there. I want to move on to the second part of this passage.

What right does Jesus have to claim preeminence? By what right does Jesus demand that I submit myself to him? I am going to honest with you. I’ve had a problem with that at times.

Not too long ago my wife and I were having dinner with a pastor and his friend. I was in his church for a meeting. This pastor was going through some frustrations, some self doubts. He said when I look at you, I can see so obviously that here is a person who has just submitted himself to the Lord and surrendered himself to the Lord. I wish I could do that.

I said I don’t see it that way. I’ll tell you how I feel. I feel like God has dragged me kicking and screaming every step of the way. I submit to him because I can go easy or I can go hard. I’ve tried hard. I would be lying though if I did not say I’ve had a problem with that. You mean I ought to make every other thing in my life subservient to this one thing, that he be Lord and that he be pleased with my life, that he be glorified? Am I supposed to turn my back on my tragedies, on my sickness, on my misfortune, and say it is all right as long as he can be glorified?

What right does Jesus have to say to me, I want you to submit everything in your life so that I can be glorified and be honored? When the Lord Jesus was here on earth, he never hesitated to ask that of people. Remember in John 21 they had that little talk after breakfast, and Jesus said to Peter, do you love me. Peter said yes, yes, yes. He said right now when you are young you go where you want to go, wear what you want to wear. But when you are old, other people will drag you, and take you, and dress you. This he spake signifying by what death he should die. Then he said to Peter, follow me.

I have written in the top of my Bible over that verse in John 21: That is a bad selling point! That is poor psychology. You would think if Jesus was trying to convince Peter to follow him, he would have told Peter if you follow me, here’s what I’m going to let you do. I am going to let you be the Pentecostal preacher. Three thousand people will be saved the first time you ever preach. I am going to give you power to heal the sick and raise the dead. You will write a part of the New Testament, and there will be one big church that will say you are the first pope. I am going to make you famous—give you all this glory. Jesus didn’t mention a bit of that. He simply said, Peter, if you follow me, it is going to cost you your life—follow me!

That’s not the way to gather a crowd. It seemed though that every time a crowd did gather around Jesus, he said something to drive them away. Most of us preachers, when we get a crowd, do everything we can to hold them here. Jesus would always say discouraging, harsh things. To the rich young ruler who asked what he must do, Jesus said to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. Well, I think we ought to work up to that. First of all, get him in the church and get his name on the line. Later on, we can bring up this other stuff. No, this is it from the outset. Right now, you sell everything you have and follow me. The man went away, and Jesus loved him. We know that Jesus loved everyone but it doesn’t always say that. I have a feeling Jesus wanted to reach out with all his heart and grab that young man and save him. But Jesus would not lower the standard. He would not compromise. If you are not willing to die, don’t follow me. If you do not love me more than father, mother, sister, brother, husband, or wife, you are not worthy. He didn’t say you won’t make a good one; he said you won’t make one at all. Where did Jesus get the audacity to make such demands? I’ve had a problem with this at times.

I have to tell you about a friend of mine on the phone six months after his son had put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. He said he could see many things God had done through this. Relatives had been saved that probably would never have been saved. Then he broke down and said that’s not enough. Am I going to criticize that father for feeling that way? We lie to ourselves if we say we never have those thoughts.

There is a reason why Jesus has the right to be Lord. Actually, there are two that Paul gives us. First of all, he has a right because of who he is. In verse 19 he says, for it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell. Why is it so that Jesus should have the preeminence? Because it pleased the Father that in him would all fullness dwell. You glance across the page to the second chapter, verse 9, it is spoken another way: for in him dwelleth (permanently, settled down) all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are filled with it too in union with him. Jesus has a right to demand supremacy in my life because he is God, because of his Deity, because of who he is, for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

Words are almost impossible to explain, but what Paul is trying to say is that Jesus Christ is the sum of all sums. In other words, if you take all the wisdom there is in the world and pile it over here, all the grace there is and pile it over here, all the love there is and pile it over here, all the mercy there is and pile it over there, you have the sum of all mercy, the sum of all love, the sum of all grace, and the sum of all wisdom—and the sum of all those sums is summed up in Jesus Christ. There is nothing good or godly outside Jesus. Anything outside Jesus does not qualify for being good or godly. Everything that is good and godly is in Jesus Christ; therefore, I am complete in him.

I will never forget one night after the service a woman came up to me and thrust a book at me, and said, I want you to read this. I said what is it? She said it is The Book of Mormon. I pushed it back and told her I read it in school. She pushed it back and told me again to read it. There are some good things in it. I pushed it back and said there is some good bread in the garbage can, but I don’t eat out of the garbage can! She said that is the trouble with you Baptists. You are too narrow-minded. I said one day when Jesus said to the disciples, will you also go away. The disciples said, to whom shall we go? I get the feeling if they had an option, they might have gone to somebody else. But they said, where is there to go? You have the words of life. Listen, if everything is that good and godly—all the wisdom, all the knowledge is treasured up in Jesus, why do I need to step outside Jesus? He deserves the preeminence in my life, because of his Deity, because of who he is—the Creator. He has made us for himself.

Finally, he deserves the preeminence not only because of who he is but because of what he has done for us, not only because of his Deity but because of his death. This is his right to be preeminent. In verse 20 Paul says, (continuing the thought of the reason for his preeminence):
20And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

. . . that in all things he might have the preeminence. Why?—because he is God in the flesh, and because he died for us. It is a rightful claim that Jesus makes on our lives. He is not asking for anything he has not bought and paid for. He is not asking me to give as a free gift my life to him. It is something he has already paid for, something that is due him, something that is owed him. I’m not doing God a favor when I trust him as Savior.
I cringe a little at these methods of evangelism when you approach somebody with talents or gifts and say, you would be such an asset to the Kingdom of God. You ought to come and give your life to Christ because there is so much you could do. There is something about that that always kind of strikes me wrong, like I’m doing God a big old favor.

Jeannette Clift George said in giving our testimony we talk about all the great times we had out there in the world, and our sin, and then say, I became a Christian. You get the idea that if I were not a preacher today, I probably could have been President of the United States. I had offers from Hollywood. I could have been a millionaire but I gave it all up to become a preacher. I tell you if God hadn’t called me to preach, I would probably have starved to death. I think sometimes the only reason he called me to preach is so he can get me to go to church once in awhile. I’m not doing God a favor when I give him my life. I am simply presenting to him that which he has already purchased with his blood.

My New Testament professor in seminary told a little incident in his life to illustrate this very point. He said, “When I was a little boy growing up in Tennessee, my dad gave me an Exacto set (a set of knives) and a big piece of balsa wood. I took those knives and carved out of that piece of balsa wood a little boat. I put a mast on it, fixed up a sail, and painted it red, white and blue. There was a little stream that ran through our town. I took my little boat that I had made and put it into the water. As the current carried it down, I ran alongside the bank watching it. I forgot to take into account that there was a point at which that little stream divided, and one went this way, and one went that way. When we got to that point, my little boat went this way. By the time I was able to get back and cross over, my boat was gone. I could not find it.” About two weeks later he was with his mother in one of these flea markets. He saw on a table a familiar sight. It was a little sailboat painted red, white and blue. It was his; he would know it anywhere. He went to man in charge and said, “That boat is mine. I lost it in the creek a couple weeks ago.” The man told him, “Anyone could come in and say that. All I know is that somebody brought the boat in here and sold it. If you want it, you’ll have to pay for it.” The boy argued with him and told him he made it. He went home, got what money he had, came back, gave that man the money, and he gave him his boat. He said he would never forget as he walked out of the store, he said to the boat, “Now you are mine twice. I made you, and then I bought you.”

That’s what Jesus Christ says to every one of us. You are mine twice. I made you, and I bought you.” From every point of view in my life, Jesus must have the preeminence, the supremacy.